We’re doing something right: NRL interest in St Helens stars only a positive says Wellens

Josh McAllister
Jack Welsby St Helens 2023 SWpix

Photo: David Neilson/www.photosport.nz/SWpix.com

St Helens head coach Paul Wellens believes potential NRL interest in his star players is only a positive thing, insisting it means the club must be doing something right. 

The Super League champions impressed many during their time in Australia, winning the World Club Challenge 13-12 over Penrith Panthers, as well as defeating St George Illawarra Dragons the week before as part of the NRL’s pre-season schedule.

Jack Welsby is one of those players who caught plenty of attention Down Under, although the full-back is contracted with St Helens until the end of 2025.

And boss Wellens welcomes the challenges that come with retaining his star players, having already signed up the likes of Joe Batchelor, Morgan Knowles and Matty Lees to long-term contracts.

“That’s the challenge for the club, to retain our best players,” Wellens said. “We’ve had a lot of success in doing that.

“When you look at the likes of Jonny Lomax and James Roby, Mark Percival, Tommy Makinson, Alex Walmsley, Morgan Knowles, I could go on…Matty Lees. There’s a lot of players there who quite comfortably could have gone and played elsewhere, whether that be in the NRL or wherever. 

“But we’re delighted that those players have committed their long-term futures to our club, and that’ll be the challenge again moving forward.

“I’ve gone on record saying this over the last week that if other clubs and particularly clubs on the other side of the world are showing interest in our players, then we’re doing something right.

“That challenge stays there. But it’s one that we don’t shy away from, and creating an environment in which our players want to be in and one to thrive in”

Paul Wellens not worried World Club Challenge will have a knock-on effect on 2023 campaign

42-year-old coach Wellens isn’t worried that St Helens’ three-week trip to Australia will have a knock-on effect on his side’s attempt at making it five in a row.

The history makers are favourites once again in 2023 to lift the Super League trophy at Old Trafford.

They return to action this Sunday with a trip to Castleford in Round Two, with a strong 21-man squad named for the fixture at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.

Wellens continued: “I spoke to the playing group before we even set out to Australia and we spoke about the different challenges that will be taken on this challenge.

“And one of those was coming back and getting straight into Super League and what can be at times the monotony of Super League, the week to week grind.

“So it’s something that we’re going to have to get our heads around pretty quickly. But knowing this playing group and the way they’ve gone about their work in the last few years, I’ve got the confidence that we can do that.”

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